Month: November 2020

My Thoughts on a Responsible Plan for Guelph Budget 2021

As many are aware, Guelph council is in the midst of planning the 2021 City Budget.  And after spending the past few weeks digesting all of the information, as well as public input, I’d like to offer some thoughts on what an appropriate and responsible 2021 Guelph City Budget might look like.

In May of this year I wrote about the City’s commitment over the past six years to “save in the good times“, and how this commitment has set the City on a firm foundation to respond to the COVID public health and economic crisis (Link Here). I wrote about the city’s tax rate stabilization reserve being completely rebuilt since 2014 ($2.1M, to a projected balance of over $13M in 2020); and the city’s total contingency reserves being rebuilt from $10.8M (2014), to a projected balance of over $23.4M (2020).

So as a follow up to this article, I’d like to offer a second (equally important) piece to the equation.  “Save in the good times…………in order to stimulate in the bad.”  Since the 1930’s this has become a core function of Government (stimulate during recessions), in order to cushion economic impacts and excelerate recovery; and this function is something Guelph is well situated to perform.

Armed with healthy reserves, Council must focus on responding to the thousands in our community who are still out of work; have returned only part time; have lost a business; or, are facing another round of income insecurity this winter. To achieve this, one thing is clear. Council must work harder to minimize the tax increase in 2021 (currently projected to be 3.6%), all while committing to targeted and immediate reserve funding of community supports to promote resiliency and recovery. Community Grants, Arts and Tourism, Youth Sports, Care Facilities, Welcoming Streets Initiatives, Small Business Tax Reductions (just to name a few), all need to be supported in 2021. And because of our collective success in rebuilding reserves, we can do this. All while acknowledging the impact this pandemic has had on Guelph households and small businesses by minimizing the tax increase.  These adjustments (funding through reserves) are no different then what every household in our community is having to do this year.  

Further, through this strategy, council will be modelling a similar approach to the provincial and federal government‘s pandemic relief and recovery initiatives (i.e. payroll support, rent relief etc), by focussing on immediate funding needs while keeping an eye on recovery.

City Council, City staff and the executive team have done diligent work over the past six years putting us in the financial position we are in today. Now it’s time to provide targeted support in 2021, which includes minimizing a property tax increase.

Elections Matter #Guelph……… PLEASE TAKE THE SURVEY!

It’s understandably difficult to find room in the current Election News Coverage to talk about municipal elections BUT here in #Guelph we are already planning for the 2022 municipal election. And we need your help!

Many municipalities across Ontario are seeking ways of broadening access to voting (i.e. vote by mail, over the phone, or internet voting), and increase voter engagement during elections. #Guelph is no different.

We want to ensure your voice is heard in 2022 and we want as many of you to speak as possible. So if you have ever considered (or would consider), casting a ballot in the 2022 Guelph municipal election by means other than “in-person” at a polling station (i.e. childcare issues, concerns over COVID, travelling abroad, work conflicts, accessibility concerns etc), it is very important to take 5 minutes and complete this survey. GO!

https://www.haveyoursay.guelph.ca/voting-methods

Thank you to all residents for reaching out to me over the past few weeks with your thoughts on this file. It has been great corresponding with you and hearing your feedback. And after responding to dozens of email about my position, I thought it best to provide my thoughts in advance of this evenings council meeting so residents knew where I stood. So here goes. Short and sweet.

As illustrated in the Watson and Associates Report, there are in fact only three, single tier municipalities in all of Ontario that currently employ “Full Time” councillors.  Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton. Of importance to note, all of these cities have considerably larger populations than Guelph.

There is (of course) no “rule” for determining when and how large a city must be before moving to full time councillors, but the consultants report does serve as a benchmark. Similarly, and by comparison in the same table, it is clear that Guelph city councillors (two per ward) are appropriately paid for their time ($41,528/year). 

Secondly, as per the consultants report.  Guelph City councillors (based on personal interviews), spend on average about 20 hours per week on council business.  This equates to 80 hours per month or approximately 840hrs/year when you consider council breaks (council breaks for two weeks at Christmas and four weeks each summer).  This equates to approximately $48/hr for part time work.  No system is ever perfect, but if you support a two councillor per ward model in Guelph, it is clear that the current system is well designed and the compensation is comparatively, very competitive.  

Thirdly, for councillors to whom the following statement feels true (see below), I would reiterate the importance of time management when performing this duty in the community.  On a personal note, I commute to work each day, coach youth sports and have a young family. I have worked full time for the past 6 years while also serving on city council. At times has it been stressful to manage? Of course (just see budget time each year)! At the end of the day however, being effective at something comes down to effective time management. To serve as a councillor and still maintain full time employment is absolutely possible with effective time management………….just ask me 😉

Finally and most importantly, the position of an elected councillor is first and foremost a public service.  It should never be seen as a job.  If a primary motivator in running for council is to be ”paid appropriately for your time”, you are missing the call to public service.  I have read no better quote articulating this message then an email I received earlier last week. Thank you to the resident for passing this along. I hope this message helps ground our conversations this evening.

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